Brazilian Government honours Massey Professor

Friday 1 March 2024

Professor Leonel Alvarado from the School of Humanities, Media and Creative Communication has been made an Officer of the Order of Rio Branco for his services to the Portuguese language and Brazilian culture in Aotearoa New Zealand.

His Excellency Ambassador Marcos Arbizu de Souza Campos, Professor Leonel Alvarado and Professor Kerry Taylor, Head of the School of Humanities, Media and Creative Communication.

Last updated: Friday 8 March 2024

During a ceremony at the Embassy of Brazil in Wellington at the end of February, Brazilian Ambassador His Excellency Marcos Arbizu de Souza Campos bestowed the award on behalf of the Brazilian President.

Named after the founder of the Brazilian diplomatic service, Baron de Rio Branco, the award is presented to individuals who provide meritorious service to Brazil and have made significant contributions to Brazilian studies. Appointments to the order, which was established in 1962, are made by decree of the President of Brazil and countersigned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs after approval by the Council of the Order. It is the highest honour granted outside of Brazil and only 80 awardees worldwide can hold the rank of Officer.

Professor Alvarado has served as the Portuguese Coordinator at Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University since the establishment of the programme in 2019. It is the only Portuguese programme in Aotearoa that focuses on Brazilian Portuguese language and culture, due to the increasing trade and cultural ties between Aotearoa and Brazil.

Professor Alvarado says he is grateful to the Brazilian government for the honour and praises the work carried out by the Embassy to promote Brazilian culture and strengthen the relationship between both countries.

“The honour is a recognition of the effort and passion of so many people involved in promoting the Portuguese language and Brazilian culture in Aotearoa, from our students to our leaders at the School, College and university level. I feel proud to receive it on their behalf and to continue to work for what all of us believe in. Brazilian culture has been a passion of mine since my years as an undergraduate student. Brazil is a country of extraordinary cultural expressions, from music to literature, cinema and the arts.”

Massey has also developed significant research and teaching collaborations with Brazilian universities. Staff from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences have collaborated in multiple research projects with their Brazilian counterparts.

In 2019, Professor Alvarado received a Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Latin America (PMSLA) from Education New Zealand. This enabled him to take a group of students to the University of Campinas and Federal University of Rio de Janeiro for an immersion programme focused on language development and cultural diversity. Under this scheme, staff from both the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and College of Creative Arts have also taken students to other Brazilian universities and institutions, with Professor Alvarado playing a pivotal role in providing advice and support for applications.

Professor Alvarado says it’s important to continue the work of fostering cultural understanding and advancing international cooperation.

“Let’s continue to promote the study of other languages in Aotearoa. It’s a fascinating and enriching way to bring us closer to other people’s cultures and to gain a deeper understanding of our own place in the world.”

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